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May 4, 2017

Letter: Proposed resolution stigmatizes Israel

Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

To the Editors:

The UMass Graduate Employees Union (United Automobile Workers affiliated) is now currently debating and voting on a resolution as to whether their organization should join the “BDS movement,” a campaign to isolate and stigmatize Israel based on a one-sided and radical perspective on the Middle East conflict.

It is disappointing to us as faculty that the University of Massachusetts graduate students are considering this misguided and polarizing action. These resolutions, which blame one side entirely for a complex historical conflict, do not promote peace and dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. They encourage polarization by stigmatizing any engagement or affiliation with Israel.

We encourage open-minded graduate students at UMass Amherst to reject this measure and to vote “no.” Graduate students, like faculty, administrators or anyone else, certainly have the right to their political opinions and should express them. Like-minded graduate students are free to start “graduate students for Palestine” or “graduate students for Israel” or “graduate students for human rights everywhere” or any other group, just as individual faculty can sign whatever petition or join whatever group they like.

But BDS resolutions such as the one currently up for vote do something else. They impose one partisan view of a complex situation on the whole organization as a kind of “loyalty oath.” To be a member of the graduate student union, this resolution suggests, that one must stand against Israel. To anyone who holds a different view, it sends the message that you are not welcome here.  Jews are welcome so long as they reject the Jewish state in the way the BDS movement does (or at least keep quiet about it). In its effect, if not its intent, it is thus seen as discriminatory. This was recognized by UAW International Board when, in December 2015, they clearly rejected a similar measure floated by University of California at Los Angeles graduate students.

In the wake of that decision, it is frankly shocking that UMass students have put this up for a union vote. We hope that UMass graduate students show the good judgment to reject this measure.

Prof. Jay Berkovitz, Judaic & near eastern studies department

Prof. Daniel Gordon, history department

Prof. Eyal Markman, mathematics & statistics department

Prof. Hava Siegelmann, college of info & computer sciences department

Prof. Jonathan Skolnik, languages, literatures & cultures department

Prof. James Young, English, Judaic & near eastern studies department

Comments
31 Responses to “Letter: Proposed resolution stigmatizes Israel”
  1. Zac Bears says:

    Saying BDS is about solely blaming Israel is like saying the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were about solely blaming the South, even though they guaranteed freedoms to oppressed people in both the North and South. BDS is about holding the Israeli administration accountable for its land grabs and unwillingness to end the occupation of Palestinian lands. The Israeli administration, particularly under the highly polarizing Netanyahu, has de facto discarded the idea of a two-state solution. There is blame on both sides. There is violence on both sides. But only one side has a modern, heavily armed military and regularly builds walls to maintain control in disputed territory over which ownership has never been settled by treaty. This is just another attempt to say that being opposed to Israel’s foreign policy means a person is anti-Semitic, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  2. Josseph Avni says:

    Never take decisions before checking, what is the truth

    For many years Arabs and Islamic movements are fighting against the western culture and the Jewish people all over the world and not just againt Israrl

    Who are the terorists? Jews or Arabs?

    What happened in Sep 11th in NYC

    Who were behind these attacks?

    Don’t be confused by lies that will encourage terror and innocent people killing

    Do you have the right to defend your self?

    Do you support ISIS?

    Do you support violence?

    The truth about the BDS:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbuOc9NWuYI

    The history of the Jewish people briefly:

    What do you know about the israeli-palestinian conflict?

    http://www.hallelu.co.il/Our-Videos.html

    http://www.science.co.il/Israel-history.php

  3. Fir Vor says:

    I totally support this. I am in favor of an open debate, based on facts. One-sided decisions are a form of violence, and whatever one’s position is, violence cannot be justified. Forcing and linking UMass Graduate Employees Union membership to BDS support is simply forcing member’s speech – again, a form of violence.

  4. Harrison says:

    Glad to see so many faculty oppose this harmful and bigoted movement! As the vote at UChicago a few days ago shows, the movement is fundamentally supported by opponents of the Jewish state’s existence. It does not recognize atrocities committed against the Jewish state or historical context in any way, and therefore can only further polarize our student body at a time when we need peace and compromise the most.

  5. Oren says:

    BDS – out!
    Israel – IN!!

  6. Tom Freund says:

    The goals of BDS support the diametric opposite of what they claim to support. The facts and history have shown that Israel has always been open to any trust-building measures between Israel and the Palestinians. BDS only opens the door to further extremism and misconceptions both sides. Any vote in support for BDS here is only a vote to prolong the agony for both Israelis and Palestinians.

  7. Tzvi Yazhgur says:

    BDS is nothing more or less as a form of Anti-Semitism and should be treated as such. It is a vehicle and not a cause. Should be banned.

  8. Noam Goldstein says:

    I completely agree with the letter… I just don’t think that’s any shocking.

    That’s radical leftist students playing the power game. They like to pretend they have a saying in global affairs, let alone pretend they care about human rights, while at the same time capitalizing on the image boost they get from the fetishism that feeds any topic related to Israel.

    It’s basically a click bait that coincides with the election period of GSS, just like the sit-in being enacted at Whitmore. That’s how the current candidates get their publicity for free: playing with the naivety of youngsters fom the left who want to save the planet through a collective kumbayah.

  9. Shlomo Yaffe says:

    Who is asking for BDS, and against whom is it to be applied? BDS is penalizing the only society in the Middle East that provides rue civil right to all its citizens regardless of religion or race- Israel.

    This campaign is being waged on behalf of, and at the behest of authoritarian, racist, violent, misogynistic organizations who stand against every value that civilization holds dear – organisations such as ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority and the Iranian regime.

    Voting for BDS is voting for and embracing all the values and atrocities of ISIS. Ironically most of the union’s members would be targets for extortion, murder, and rape under the rule of those whom they support.

    Shameful.

  10. Zuffy says:

    Make Israel accountable for its illegal military occupation and its gross violations of international law–BDS for the win.

  11. Susan says:

    Thank you for writing this letter. The BDS movement is an act of discrimination and aggression. It is not a peace movement. It is a movement wearing sheep’s clothing pretending to be progressive but a movement of hate.

  12. GEO/UAW2322 Jews support BDS! says:

    GEO/UAW2322 Jews support BDS!

    As Jewish current and former members of GEO/UAW 2322, we are writing to express our support for the recent Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) resolution, put forth by the Palestine Solidarity Caucus and GEO Steering Committee and will be voted on by our union’s membership.
    We believe that a just peace in Israel/Palestine requires challenging and putting an end to Israel’s military occupation, its ongoing settler expansion, and its preferential treatment of Jews vis-à-vis Palestinians in the region. As such, we stand with the Palestine Solidarity Caucus in support of this resolution and urge you to vote yes.

    An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere and none of us is free until all of us are free. As Jews, we understand from our own experiences with discrimination and our own history of resistance to oppression that standing on the right side of history necessitates standing in solidarity with Palestinians. For that reason, we are proud to be counted among the growing number of Jews and trade unionists around the the world who refuse to turn a blind eye to this issue. We are speaking out today against our government, employer and national labor union’s complicity in Israel’s actions through military aid and investment in corporations that profit from the occupation. Students and workers participated vigorously in the global campaign to divest from South African apartheid in the 1980s, and we seek to build upon that legacy and its tactics. We thus believe that GEO/UAW2322 and its members must join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, until such time as Israel has complied with international law and respected the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and all Palestinian refugees and exiles.

    As Jews, we feel an urgent need at the present moment to say “Not in our name” as Israel commits human rights violations with impunity. And as trade unionists, we feel an obligation to express our solidarity with Palestinians living under a system of legal apartheid, as well as our solidarity with Israelis and people around the world who stand in opposition to this system.

    We affirm our right and responsibility as Jews to oppose the State of Israel’s actions and policies that we believe to be unjust. Though the State of Israel justifies its policies as defending the safety of Jews in Israel and around the world, we argue that these policies do not actually support these ends. Moreover, we maintain that it is anti-Semitic to stifle Jewish diversity of opinion on Israel, or expect Jews to support Israel’s policies on the sole basis of their Jewishness. We hope that honest critique will lead to positive change.

    Therefore, we urge all members to support the call for our employer, UMass Amherst, and our national union, the United Auto Workers, to divest from corporations that benefit from Israeli occupation; for our government to end military aid to Israel; and for us to call on affiliated bodies such as UAW Local 2322, to also join the BDS movement. This renews and furthers the commitment of GEO which overwhelmingly voted in 2003 for divestment from the Israeli occupation. This referendum will be voted upon by the entire GEO membership in April.

    signed,

    Daniel Armenti
    Benjamin Balthaser
    Andrew Berg
    Kevin Scott Felton
    Adam Garfield
    Alyssa Goldstein
    Eric Hamako, Ed.D.
    Jenny Krichevsky
    Anna-Claire Simpson
    Davey Shlasko
    Anais Surkin
    Uri Strauss

  13. Sam G. says:

    BDS is an antisemitic campaign which doesnt promote peace or dialogue, but rather set the parties further apart!
    Say yes to PEACE say no to HATE/BDS

  14. sue scott says:

    You are being misguided if you vote for BDS by those who spin what goes on in the middle east to make Israel look like the bad guys. If people truly wanted peace with Israel, there wouldn’t be people going into the streets and stabbing people at random. You hear that Israeli police are going into Arab areas after people That’s the news bite. What is left out, is that they are going after the person who stabbed people in a market place. Time after time, this other side of the story is left out intentionally .as a way to spin what goes on, in order to make Israel look like the aggressor. The BDS vote would not have happened without this sort of spin in the media which is being taken advantage of by those who would like Israel not to exist..

  15. Levi says:

    Dear Zac,

    I have to challenge you on your comparison. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment are just because they are universal. They do not say that slavery is only wrong in the south, but all over the US. In contrast, BDS selectively chooses one nation among all (discrimination) for criticism and punishment when others are committing the same crimes to a worse extent. That’s the problem with BDS. It fails the universality principle of justice, and thus is unjust.

  16. Chaim Adelman says:

    B”H

    A gentle reminder that the Jewish People began ruling and have had a continuous presence in the Land of Israel for close to 3500 years, thousands of years before the Palestinians laid any claim to this land! Just as the Babylonians were conqueror/occupiers about 2000 years ago, so too the Persians, the Romans, down to the English during the Mandate, and so too the Palestinians of today. Any historical claim of Palestinians or anyone not of the Jewish People, is affirming roots of occupation of Jewish Land. For the sake of peace, they should leave if they are not happy living there.

    The resolutions of the United Nations of the 1940’s granting autonomy to Arabs is nothing more than sanctioning occupation of Jewish Land. It would be the same as saying that the US started it’s history at the Declaration of Independence, conveniently forgetting who ruled and lived here before.

    I agree. End the occupation.

  17. Arie S. says:

    BDS= Antisemitism

  18. LZ says:

    Thank you for writing this letter and for your bravery. I resent the BDS Movement for stealing attention away from more pressing issues that need to be remedied such as the plight of orphans in third world countries, human trafficking, slavery on cocoa plantations, water shortages in Africa, honor killings, the vulgar practice of female genital mutilation, gender apartheid to name a few. Only ignorant and bigoted individuals would associate with such a hateful and counterproductive movement that ends up hurting Palestinians, the people BDS purports to support.

  19. Dan says:

    Atittudes like these scare me away from ever wanting to be a umass Grad Student.

  20. David Hunt 1990 says:

    To those who support BDS, a simple question: When one side – the Arabs – want the other side – the Jews – dead, just what is there to negotiate?

    The Hamas charter calls for Israel’s destruction – no compromise. The PA honors people who stab, shoot, and kill Jews. In both Gaza and the West Bank they celebrated when a three-month-old infant was stabbed to death in her crib by dancing in the streets and handing out candy.

    The solutions aren’t simple; the situation is. One side wants the other side dead.

  21. David Hunt 1990 says:

    The Middle East Problem
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EDW88CBo-8
    ** 5 minute video.

    BILL WHITTLE: THE CASE FOR ISRAEL
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg1IVjnRuXk
    ** 8 minutes

    Debunking the Palestine Lie
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7ByJb7QQ9U
    ** 12 minutes

    But here’s a challenge to the BDS advocates. Give up every piece of technology developed by Israel. Forego all medical developments from Israel. That includes potential cures for prostate cancer, other cancers.

    FACT: in 2005 Israel withdrew from Gaza. NOT ONE Jew lives there. NOT ONE. And how did the Palestinians repay Israel for that? By launching over 10,000 missiles and mortars, an average of three a day, at CIVILIAN TARGETS. By robbing their own people of concrete to build hospitals and schools in order to build infilatration tunnels with the intent of killing and kidnapping Jews.

    FACT: The PA, the so-called moderates, say that the entire state of Israel is “occupied”. So what does that mean, to thinking people? It means that there is NO partner with whom to negotiate, because NOBODY there is willing to concede that Israel should exist.

    FACT: The Palestinians have been offered Gaza and the West Bank three times, just recently, and refused. They’re not serious.

    “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” = no Israel. Period. Another Holocaust.

    And to all you Jews who take BDS’ side: kapos. Judenrats. I am ashamed that you are a member of my Tribe.

  22. David Hunt 1990 says:

    outstanding Explanation: Why Israel can’t withdraw to its pre ’67 borders line – Please Share
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2hZ6SlSqq0

    But what are we to expect. Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus? China’s occupation of Tibet? Occupations around the world? Crickets. Once again in history, Jews are marked for “special handling”.

  23. Noam Goldstein says:

    To the GEO/UAW2322 Jews:

    You should at least acknowledge that you do not represent the majority of the Jews. When all you can argue with is your rhetoric and a collection of slogans, you are basically making a fool of yourselves by showing disconnection with historical facts and reality. Plus, you are showing everyone that you are not ashamed of throwing your own under the bus for some extra points within your little social circle.

    The irony is that if you were indeed concerned about the Palestinian people well-being, your actions would back-fire, considering that such one sided initiatives that evade from negotiations are only making the Palestinian State farther from becoming a serious political entity. You are also disrespecting:

    a) The South Africans who struggled with real apartheid and won through real reconciliation (as opposed to terrorism);
    b) The minorities from Arab countries who struggle with real and life threatening discrimination;
    c) The Jews who were expelled from all the countries during last decades and were able to build their lives in Israel (not all world Jews have had the privilege to become U.S. citizens);
    d) The approx. 2 million Arab Israelis who enjoy full citizenship rights and struggle with discrimination partially motivated by incredible levels of irresponsibility from their main political leaders (and B.D.S. can be another example of that);
    e) The Jews whom you are misrepresenting, by denying their right of self-determination and self-governance (guess what’s the B.D.S. idea for the two state solution?) and criminalizing it.

    Shame on you GEO/UAW2322 Jews, for taking advantage on your privileged status of being Jews living in an open and democratic society (something mostly unheard of during the majority of our history) to whitewash the anti-Semitic tactics of B.D.S. By doing that, you are enabling their fascist-like agenda and providing them with a false legitimacy. Are you proud of being Fascism facilitators?

    I wonder who paid for the constant Facebook sponsored posts in which GEO/UAW2322 campaigns for B.D.S. I also wonder how many extra campaign funds the recent GEO and GSS candidates got for such support, as well as extra votes based on empty rhetoric that have nothing to do with defending Grad students/workers’, Int’l students’ and even Auto workers’ interests. How presumptuous is their (and your) claim of being in “the right side of history”, or even having any influence at all in complex global affairs?
    Shame, shame, shame.

  24. Mike Aksel says:

    I can’t believe some of the comments on here by people who seem to be otherwise intelligent, but either misinformed or deliberately hypocritical in their views of the Israel and Palestinian matters.

    How does one even begin to rationalize faulting Israel for having an army and protecting its citizens? Should they not defend themselves? Would any other county not respond the same way when attacked? Yet somehow Israel is held to a different standard. Why should Jews be the only ones who march to their own slaughter like lambs? I am proud of the fact that Israel can and does defend herself… Never again is more than just words.

    As for pulling back from the occupied territories, what is the incentive? Israel pulled out of Lebanon and Hezbollah moved in; Israel pulled out of Gaze and Hamas took root. Unless there is a willing and invested partner on the other side, it would be paramount to suicide for Israel to pull out and turn over a large chunk of land for yet another terrorist organization to thrive right on its borders. Please, take a look at the map of the area, you don’t have to be a military strategist to see just how stupid that would be for Israel or how dangerous.

    So, if your ultimate aim is peace, I applaud your efforts, but this should be balanced and address both sides, not single out Israel as the bad actor, especially since it is not. But, if to achieve peace Israel has to sacrifice its security and possible its existence, than to hell with you and your ideas… Never again!!!

    One final thought, for those of you on here who are Jews supporting the BDS movement, you are the most reprehensible of people. You are no different than the Kappos who assisted the Nazis in the camps, there is no better word for you than this, traitors…

  25. David Hunt 1990 says:

    @Mike Aksel: “One final thought, for those of you on here who are Jews supporting the BDS movement, you are the most reprehensible of people. You are no different than the Kappos who assisted the Nazis in the camps, there is no better word for you than this, traitors…”

    Yup. Those who would sell out their own people for a few accolades and attaboys are the lowest of the low. Traitors to their own people.

  26. Arafat says:

    “No peace under Israeli occupation”

    Ah! So that’s why there’s no peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, and the other 56 Islamic states!
    Those Israelis sure do get around!

  27. Sophie says:

    I am glad we are talking about the global plight of Palestinians for a change. Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan and many more Arab countries continue to impose severe travel restrictions on Palestinians and treat them like chattel and foreign guest workers, that is, if they are allowed to work at all. Sadly, the Palestinians have foundered in camps in these Arab countries for decades with no hope for integration in the societies where they live or improvement of their condition, since they are denied the right to run for office in national elections (the exception is Jordan, where Palestinian political representation is capped at 10%). Especially unacceptable is the apartheid system in Lebanon where Palestinians have suffered from the long denial of their basic rights, including the right to own property, access to many forms of employment, access to social security and medical care. In poll after poll, Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, condemn the Lebanese legal system for prohibiting the Palestinians there from working as taxi drivers, journalists, physicians, cooks, waiters, engineers, lawyers and 50 other professions. Similarly, Israel finds abhorrent the Lebanese directive prohibiting Palestinian children from enrolling in Lebanese universities and schools, despite the fact that in Lebanon’s neighboring country, Israel, there are prominent Palestinian parliamentarians, supreme court justices, doctors, diplomats, lawyers, professors and scholars. Jordan’s supposedly “liberal” attitude toward Palestinians was recently disproven when they refused to accept the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from squalid camp conditions by Syria, where Palestinians have never had the right to vote, and where at lest three thousand Palestinians have died in the civil war. Sadly, in Syrian camps for Palestinians, such as Yarmouk, Assad’s barrel bombs rained down on those who didn’t have the ability to flee, and many died of starvation when water and food services were cut off. Those Palestinians in areas such as Gaza are blocked from entry into Egypt, the tunnels they created to smuggle essential goods from Egypt into Gaza have been flooded, sealed, and villages along the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza have been razed while protestors have been shot across the border. In Libya, remaining Palestinians must pay a special tax of $1550 to protect their existence while any Palestinian immigrants have been barred from entry into the country since 2014. Saudi Arabia and Iraq expelled Palestinians back in the 1950s when they protested working conditions. Wealthy Qatar refuses to this day to give Palestinians work visas.
    Any proposal to divest from these countries for their economic exploitation of Palestinians and denial of their basic human rights can only be applauded, for example, by wealthy American university students and by Israeli citizens alike, whether Arab or Jew.

  28. David Hunt 1990 says:

    @sophie: Excellent piece.

    Jordan, Egypt, et al, treat the Palestinians vermin. Outrage over that? Cue the crickets. It’s only Israel that gets excoriated… why, it’s almost as if the “enlightened” don’t think Arabs are capable of treating their fellows as human beings. One could legitimately wonder whether that’s a racial bias against the Arabs’ capacity to act in a civilized manner.

    So consider this anecdote. A Palestinian woman is waiting for her son in a hospital in Israel as that son is being operated on by Jews to save his life – a life that could not be saved by the Palestinian hospitals. Money and gifts have poured in from across Israel – from Jews – to help this child and his family. When asked about it, the mother states that she hopes her child will grow up… to be a Shahid and kill Jews.

    SHE GIVES THIS ANSWER EVEN AS JEWS ARE ATTEMPTING TO SAVE THE LIFE OF HER SON.

    When one side wants the other side dead to the last man, woman, and child… tell me, please, just what is there to negotiate?

  29. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I find it interesting that you did not include my clarification follow-up post – due to a typo.

    “Jordan, Egypt, et al, treat the AS Palestinians vermin”. That is important.

  30. Dan Gordon says:

    The Chancellor made a statement on BDS. This was a response to a letter from over 30 faculty members requesting that he restate the university’s position.
    http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/chancellor%E2%80%99s-statement-bds

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